Downing sets single-season rushing record

Published 1:31 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Records are meant to be broken and while the single-season rushing record at Charles Henderson High School wasn’t on Courtney Downing’s radar at the beginning of the 2011 season, the junior running back feels at awe of the elite company he has joined in Trojan football history.

“It feels really good,” Downing said. “(The record) hasn’t been touched in so long, it feels good to be the one to break it.”

Downing carried the Trojan offense, rushing for 1,603 yards on 242 carries and eclipsed the previous single-season record of 1,523 yards posted by Cencade Pennington in 1994.

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Downing broke Pennington’s mark with 106 yards in the Trojans first round playoff game victory over Demopolis. The next week, Downing got a surprise visit on the sidelines during the St. Paul’s game. Pennington found Downing on the sideline and shook his hand.

“He told me he’d be watching me,” Downing said.

Pennington played for the Trojans from 1991-94 and accumulated over 4,000 yards in his career and set the old single-season record his senior year. The former Charles Henderson standout currently serves as an assistant coach at Smiths Station High School. Pennington went on to play for Auburn after his time in Troy and lettered all four years for the Tigers.

Head coach Hugh Fountain knew Downing would be a vital part of the Trojan offense and feels setting the rushing record can be attributed to Downing’s work ethic and determination.

“Coming into this season we felt like Courtney had the talent to be an outstanding player,” Fountain said. “He needed to get his work level up and he did that.”

Downing, who also scored 13 touchdowns, didn’t break the record alone, however, he credits his teammates as the driving force behind his individual success.

“The offensive line had a lot to do with it,” Downing said. “The wide receivers blocking, the quarterback with a good handoff, without them I couldn’t have done any of it.”

Downing said that while he didn’t think about the record before the season he did ask about it after the third game of the season.

“After the third game I asked the coaches what the record was,” he said. “I really didn’t think about it but I knew I had some good games early so I was curious.”

Fountain feels that though Downing had a good season, he is capable of an even more excited senior campaign.

“He had a good season,” Fountain said. “I think there is more on the horizon for Courtney. He has a shot to come back and leave his legacy for his career too.”

The Trojans finished with a 6-6 record in 2011 and advanced to the second round of the AHSAA playoffs.

Receiver Robert Lee fell just short in his bid to break the single-season receiving record. Lee finished with 592 yards leaving him shy of Will Jones’ mark set in 2000 of 646 yards. Svante Davenport is second with 626, placing Lee third on that list.